SBHE Sends Paid Consultant After Measure 3

Measure 3 is a constitutional amendment on the November ballot that would replace the existing State Board of Higher Education with a new, full-time, three-member commission.

Naturally the current members of the State Board of Higher Education – despite presiding over chaos, acrimony, deceit, and mediocrity – hate the idea of this reform. But state law prohibits the use of taxpayer resources for political purposes, which includes opposing or supporting ballot measures.

The State Board of Higher Education’s path around that prohibition? Send one of their paid consultants after the measure. The Association of Governing Boards is campaigning against Measure 3, and they’re claiming the fact that they’re on the payroll of the SBHE is just a coincidence voters need not trouble themselves over:

Even though the AGB is doing consulting work with the SBHE, Legon said it had nothing to do with the decision to publicly speak against Measure 3.

“The fact that we happen to be there couldn’t be more of a coincidence,” he said. “We saw what was happening on this proposed constitutional measure and I would have reacted the same way had we been in the board room or not been in the board room. This is too important both for the citizens and the institutions and the students in North Dakota, and really for folks across the country.”

You couldn’t make this stuff up if you tried.

These people must really think we’re stupid. Nobody on the State Board of Higher Education thought “hey, maybe our paid consultant going after Measure 3 might be a bit of an ethical lapse?”

Interestingly enough, one of the requirements for accreditation by the HLC – the same accreditation we’re told might be lost if Measure 3 passes – requires that governing boards conduct themselves with integrity and transparency.

With maneuvers like this, and no fewer than 17 open records/open meetings law violations since 2010, can anyone really say the university system is living up to that expectation?

I have an open records request in to find out just how much the SBHE has been paying the AGB.

Meanwhile, an official group has formed to oppose Measure 3 as well. They call themselves the Citizens for Higher Education. According to their disclosure report with the Secretary of State’s office, Jennifer Feist of Valley City is their committee contact (using her government email address through the Valley City Development Group).

We likely won’t get to see much of who gives to this group before election day, thanks to North Dakota’s far-too-loose reporting requirements, but you can bet they’ll be flooding the zone with a lot of innuendo about how the university system might lose accreditation if we replace a part-time board with a full-time board that’s appointed the exact same way.

Despite the fact that nobody can find any evidence of that ever happening anywhere.

Rob Port is the editor of SayAnythingBlog.com, a columnist for the Forum News Service, and host of the Plain Talk Podcast which you can subscribe to by clicking here.

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